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The Pit: A Story of Chicago (The Epic of the Wheat #2)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  309 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
The story of Frank Norris's The Pit could be taken from today's headlines: a businessman begins speculating in the commodities market on a small scale until, overcome by greed, addicted to the art of the deal, and harboring an ever-increasing appetite for power, he gambles recklessly in the market while the fortunes of farmers and small investors hang in the balance. At th ...more
Paperback, 244 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by Echo Library (first published 1903)
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David Fulmer
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pit is the second novel in Frank Norris’s Epic of the Wheat, an unfinished trilogy meant to portray the production, distribution, and consumption of a crop of American wheat. Norris only lived long enough to complete the first two novels in the trilogy but those two novels represent an important contribution to the effort to create an indigenous American Literature with subject matter, themes, and symbols drawn from American life.

The subtitle of this novel is ‘A Story of Chicago’ and it is a
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This novel is open to charges of being melodramatic, sentimental, didactic, and patriarchal, but in spite of all that it's a fascinating, engrossing, diverting read. Published in 1902, it is centered on the frenzied commodities market of Chicago, where men made giddy amounts of money or were smashed and ruined as they bought and sold wheat. But the central character is not a trader but young Laura Dearborn, a woman of means, intelligence, and spirit, who is admired by three men and enjoys flirti ...more
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, classic
This is the second book of a projected trilogy by Frank Norris. From the front of the book:

The Trilogy of The Epic of the Wheat includes the following novels:

THE OCTOPUS, a Story of California.
THE PIT, a Story of Chicago.
THE WOLF, a Story of Europe.
These novels, while forming a series, will be in no way connected with each other save only in their relation to (1) the production, (2) the distribution, (3) the consumption of American wheat. When complete, they will form the story of a crop of whea
Norris’ usual themes: natural and social forces as fate; romance (love, art) vs reality (greed, business); hope lies in surrender of self.
Beautiful and sensitive Laura Dearborn is being pursued by three men (although I don't know why since she is a self-absorbed and uninteresting). First, is Sheldon Corthell an artist who is separated from the world of commerce and capitalism and therefore understand women's hearts and desires. Second, is Landry Court a young businessman who is like a puppy in his adoration of Laura, but hardheaded and smart while involved in the wheat trade. And third is Curtis Jadwin, a 'man's man' who struggled ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
I was pumped to start reading this, having been blown away by The Octopus,that truly epic work.

The Great American Novellist tacking turn of the century Chicago, that city burned in my mind with its vast south side slaughterhouse, capital of world commodity trading, railroad centre of the US, harshest winters, this was going to be America's Zola giving it to us straight to the guts.

The central character is a staggeringly beautiful, privileged, Massachusetts "debutante" coming to the city followin
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of classics
Shelves: classics
Please see my detailed review at Amazon Graceann's "The Pit" Review"

Frank Norris is such a compelling writer. This book was released in 1902, yet a remarkably small amount of the language is dated, and the message is as timely as ever. The crux of the story is on speculation in the wheat market in Chicago, but wheat could really be any commodity. Anyone who tried to make it big in the recent housing-boom-gone-bust will recognize a lot of attitudes here. I would love to know what Mr. Norris would
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: am-lit
This book was so compelling that I couldn't put it down, yet it frustrated me to death at the same time. I was so frustrated with Laura, yet I simply had to know what happened. Who was she going to pick-Corthell, Landry or Jadwin? Why was Jadwin spending so much time in the pit?
Michael David
When this novel was launched in 1903, some critics thought that this was The Great American Novel. Clearly, they weren't able to read of Faulkner's Sound and the Fury or Absalom, Absalom! then, because I was vacillating between rating it either one or two.

It's not an impressive novel. The two protagonists, Laura and Curtis Jadwin, seem to have high-functioning schizophrenia over the course of the novel, because the novel seems to lack an identity. Norris was probably torn between being more sci
Leah A. A.
This absorbing novel follows Laura Dearborn, a well-to-do young woman recently come to Chicago, as she commences wedded life against a background of wheat speculating at the Board of Trade.

"The Pit" is the second saga in Norris' unfinished "Trilogy of The Epic of the Wheat." The cycle begins with "The Octopus," an otherwise unrelated novel that covers disputes between wheat growers and a railway trust in California. (Norris died before he started the third book, which was to cover wheat as brea
Bre Teschendorf
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this novel and learned a lot from it about the wheat trade in the United States during the turn of the century. It was fascinating and opened up a world of ideas for me, hither to unknown.

Furthermore, I liked the 'moral' of the story and thought that the author proved very well the everlasting truth, "All is meaningless under the sun..." without having to come right out and say it.

I found the main character of the book Laura Jadwin nee Dearborn at times endearing, at times disgusting
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the second book in Norris's The Wheat Trilogy, the first being The Octopus. The third was never finished due to Norris's untimely death.

Though written in 1903, I would consider this a "modern" novel. Superficially it is a story about obsession—obsession with acquiring wealth and power through investing in grain futures on the Chicago Grain Exchange, known as The Pit. But beneath the surface it is a story about love, and what love means to the central characters in the story. It goes into

Sarah Beaudoin
The Pit is the second book in Frank Norris' planned trilogy on the wheat lifecycle during the earliest years of the 20th century. The first book, The Octopus was an epic on the experiences of Western wheat farmers, and it really blew me away. By comparison, The Pit was a let-down. It is set in Chicago and follows the process of wheat through the Chicago Board of Trade. Actual wheat features little in the book (in fact, in one of its few appearances, Norris has a bit of brilliance with spilled wh ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
As an oil trader for the past 30 years, I found this novel had incredible relevance. Especially in one part where the trader got so confident he let his "hedges" expire. The volatility and swings in markets, panicked traders, limit up/limit down, squeezes, shorts ... it's no accident that grain and precious metals were the original commodities. Oil came a lot later. But in many ways, it's all the same. It's all about supply, shorts vs longs and, of course, money. Norris really gets into the psyc ...more
L.   (Your Migraines Are Podcasts Trying To Be Produced)
This could be considered a precursor to chick-lit as (male) author Frank Norris just loved describing what Laura Dearborn was wearing and how she arranged her hair.

Laura has moved to the center of the universe (known as Chicago) to lead a charmed life. She's got servants. Anybody who has servants has a charmed life in my opinion. Anyway, in between all the parties and operas and such, Laura has three men courting her. Decisions, decisions. Who will Laura pick? The rich guy, obviously, as Laura
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
The Pit is a satisfactory novel. Its greatest fault, alas, is that it is the sequel to the much more fully realized The Octopus. Perhaps it's because we get a bit less of the economics this time around (in exchange for more high society); perhaps it's because there are fewer major characters, making for a less diverse range of perspectives/positions; perhaps it's just that the pacing doesn't quite click. Probably it's all three. There are still, of course, some interesting themes in the novel - ...more
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Frank Norris is my favorite American author from the late 19th/early 20th century. It's a shame he died so young. This novel was particularly interesting to me because it's based in Chicago and the main character is a futures trader at the Chicago Board of Trade in the early 1900s. This was part of his "Trilogy of the Wheat", along with "The Octopus", and unfortunately he died before finishing what would have been the third novel, which was to be set in Europe. The idea was following the commodi ...more
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those into historical fiction
This is about people who speculated heavily in the Chicago wheat-trade market in the early 20th century. And since no book would be worth reading without ROMANCE (or else humor), there's a good deal of that, too. I liked the way this book brought me back to my Midwest roots. I liked the author's pervasive use of symbolism and metaphor. There was so much of human nature to think about while reading this book, that maybe I understand myself or this race a little better. I would have never picked u ...more
Nov 20, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this story. It had a business aspect to it, as well as a more domestic one as it traces the story of Laura as she moves to Chicago. she marries Jadwin, a successful Chicagoian, and the story follows her maturation set up against her new husband's degeneration (through is obsession with the wheat market). It gives a great look into Chicago, but an even better look into the Pit where stock is bought and sold, cornered and lost, and where people are changed.
Judy P. Sprout
For some reason I thought this was going to be a book about poor people in Chicago, but it was a book about rich people in Chicago. So yeah, my second book in as many weeks about commodities exchanges & stock markets. But this time wheat, not railways.

Blah blah short sales. Blah blah margin calls. Once again I have no idea why I get into this shit.

Do you want to know why we have regulation? This is why we have regulation.

Contains 0% Octopus.
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind-expansion
While Norris's The Octopus made me love literary naturalism, The Pit starts far too slowly, and Norris spends too much time writing parlor drama - something which he struggles with. The second half shifts the focus to the actual trading, and here Norris's brilliant grasp of naturalism can really shine. The book redeems itself enough that it is a great shame that the last book of the Epic of the Wheat was never finished.
Ben Iverson
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
This is a book all about how your career can take over your life if you aren't careful. It was especially interesting to me because it is all about "the pit," which is the Chicago Board of Trade (like the game of the same title). There's something very compelling, competitive, and consuming about betting on trades in the market. This book tells the story of how the Pit almost ruined a man and his wife. It made me think about my career choices and what I really want in life.
James Violand
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone.
Shelves: own
This is the second of what would have been a three-volume work of "The Wheat" that Norris had planned. His life was cut short. It concerns the Chicago futures exchange and a man who becomes wealthy by pulling the strings of this commodity. But with such wealth come a host of troubles until his corner on the market is threatened. A story of the erosion of morality in the pursuit of gain.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Not nearly as powerful as Norris's other two books, which have stuck with me a long time. However, I did like how Norris was able to turn wheat and money into characters. It just never had the big payoff for me like "McTeague" or "The Octopus". Even at that, fans of Norris, who died so tragically young, should give this a try.
Ian Thomas Smith
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Very interesting to read about turn of the century grain trading in Chicago. The animosity of wheat is crazier than modern day stock trading. I'm very interested to read the previous book "The Octopus: A Story of California". It's too bad Frank Norris passed away before he could complete his trilogy with "The Wolf: A Story of Empire".
Aug 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
I loved this book - it combines my interest in fiction about early Chicago with my interest in fiction about gilded-age speculators and the stock market (although the time period for this one is a little later - early 1900s - and the market is commodities, grain.)
May 24, 2010 rated it liked it
The wheat, the WHEEEEEAAAAATTT!!!111!111! Nah, I did like this. Despite the sexism and general goofiness, I'm into this naturalist shit. Pretty great dialogue, for something written over a hundred years ago.
Oct 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: peeps who love chicago, and overtly symbolic melodrama
Shelves: pre-1960
Was first on Chicago Magazine's list of "Books That Defined Chicago." Finally got it through the library and enjoying it immensely. I honestly need a dictionary next to me, though. It was written in 1903 and the author gives you a veritable vocabulary lesson on every page.
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
not as gripping or immediate as "the jungle" by upton sinclair but an interesting view on the other side of commerce (ie whereas the jungle was about the trials of low paid labour, this is about the millionaires whose whims dictate the market) and a decent read.
Nov 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Definately dated. I got tired of the main characters as the book developed. I think the relationship between the two main characters could of been much richer and more developed. They seemed as strangers throughout the entire book.
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Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A California Story (1901), and The Pit (1903). Although he did not openly support socialism as a political system, his work nevertheless evinces a socialist mentality and influenced socialist/progressive writers s ...more
More about Frank Norris

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